The Computer Museum, Boston
|The Computer Museum, Boston|
The Computer Museum was a Boston, Massachusetts, museum that opened in 1979 and operated in three different locations until 1999. It was once referred to as TCM and is sometimes called the Boston Computer Museum.
The Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) Museum Project began in 1975 with a display of circuit and memory hardware in a converted lobby closet of DEC's Main (Mill) Building 12 in Maynard, Massachusetts. In September 1979, with the assistance of Digital Equipment Corporation, Gordon and Gwen Bell founded the Digital Computer Museum in a former RCA building in Marlboro, Massachusetts. The director appointed to lead the museum was Oliver Strimpel, who moved from the Science Museum in London.
In spring 1982, the Museum received non-profit charitable foundation status from the Internal Revenue Service. In Fall 1983, the Computer Museum, which had dropped "Digital" from its title, decided to relocate to Museum Wharf in downtown Boston, sharing a renovated wool warehouse with Boston Children's Museum. On November 13, 1984, the Museum officially re-opened to the public at its new location. The initial set of exhibits featured the pioneering Whirlwind Computer, the SAGE computer room, an evolutionary series of computers built by Seymour Cray, and a 20-year timeline of computing developments that included many artifacts collected by Gordon Bell. Also among the opening exhibits was a permanent gallery devoted to the history, technology, and applications of digital imaging entitled The Computer and the Image.
While the majority of the Museum's energies and funding were focused on the growing exhibitions and educational programs, the resources available for the historical collections remained flat. Though active collection of artifacts continued, there was a lack of suitable collections storage and study space. Furthermore, with the inexorable shift of the U.S. computer industry from Boston to the West Coast, the Museum's Boston location became a handicap from the point of view of collecting as well as industry support. In 1996, a group of Computer Museum Board members established a division of the Museum in Silicon Valley exclusively devoted to collecting and preserving the history of computing. First called The Computer Museum History Center, it was housed in a storage building near Hangar One at Moffet Field, California. In 2001, it changed its name to the Computer History Museum and acquired its own building in Mountain View, Calif., in 2002.
In 1999, the Museum merged with the Museum of Science, Boston. When the Museum closed as an independent entity in 2000, a few artifacts were moved to the Museum of Science for eventual exhibits. The historical artifact collection was sent to the Computer History Museum forming the base of the museum's collection.
In 2013, The Computer Museum archive maintains documents and videos of the history of TCM including formative memos at Digital Equipment Corporation. The sections include: Exhibits e.g. layouts and design documents, Pioneer Lecture Videos, Posters, The Computer Bowl, Museum Reports and Annual Reports, and Marketing material e.g. brochures, guides, leaflets, press releases, and store catalogs. A Files section contains general documents of the founding and operation of the museum from the Internet Archive, the Computer History Museum, Gordon Bell and Gwen Bell, and Gardner Hendrie.
The Museum's collections were jump-started with the collections of Gordon and Gwen Bell, who had been actively collecting since the 1970s. To bring structure and discipline to collecting efforts, an acquisitions policy was developed in which computing materials were classified into Processor, Memory, and Switch categories, known as the PMS classification. The Transducer category was also added to cover input/output devices.
The Computer and the Image (1984)
In addition to exhibits principally directed to the history of computing, the Museum re-opened in 1984 with a 4,000-square-foot gallery on digital image processing and computer graphics, entitled The Computer and the Image. The exhibits addressed the history of the field; the basic principles of digital imaging, digital image processing, and image synthesis; and applications of the technologies. The exhibition featured historical artifacts, explanatory text and images, interactive exhibits, and a computer animation theater. Many of the exhibits were developed with the help of university and corporate research labs. The exhibition was developed under the direction of Oliver Strimpel with Geoff Dutton.
Digital image processing
The gallery included the history, technology and applications of digital image processing. Possibly the first-ever digital image was acquired from Jet Propulsion Labs, of the first image from a Mars probe. Static exhibits included a display of early computer graphic input and output devices, examples of digital typography, and a holographic animation of U.S. demographic evolution.
Static exhibits included a display of early computer graphic input and output devices, examples of digital typography, the holographic animation American Graph Fleeting and A Visualizer's Bestiary, a tableau of real-world objects that have vexed programmers' attempts to render them naturalistically. Dynamic exhibits included Tempest over a Teapot, featuring Allan Newell's original ceramic teapot alongside an Adage frame buffer display of a Bézier model of it, both responding to changes in lighting that viewers create with switches. The exhibit A Window full of Polygons depicted the view of downtown Boston that visitors see from the gallery on a large pen-plotter that renders the buildings' silhouettes with changing colors and patterns.
Realistic image synthesis
Synthetic lighting and shading algorithms for models of three-dimensional objects have classically been tested by rendering of a teapot. In the early 1970s, Martin Newell, working at The University of Utah, decided to use his teapot as an object with which to test various modeling, lighting and shading techniques. In the summer of 1984, at the 1984 ACM SIGGRAPH conference, Martin Newell donated his original teapot to Oliver Strimpel, wryly noting the symbolism of one Englishman giving another Englishman a teapot to be preserved and displayed a stone's throw from the site of the Boston Tea Party revolt of 1773. The exhibit displayed Allan Newell's original ceramic teapot alongside an Adage frame buffer display of a Bézier model of it, both responding interactively to changes in lighting selected by museum visitors with switches.
Smart Machines (1987)
A permanent gallery devoted to artificial intelligence and robotics opened in 1987. Interactive exhibits focused on expert systems, robot sensing, and natural language understanding. Visitors could sit at computers and ask questions of ELIZA, see key research mobile robots and robot arms in a robot theater, and analyze HAL in an excerpt of the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Walk-Through Computer (1990, 1995)
A two-story-high model of a personal computer, simulated to be working interactively. The purpose of the exhibit was to show the anatomy of a computer and to explain how the various parts work and communicate with each other.
- "Backgrounder". Computerhistory.org. Computer History Museum. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
- Bell, Gordon (4 April 2011). "Out of a Closet: The Early Years of The Computer [x]* Museum". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
- "The Computer Museum archive". 2013.
- Bell, Gordon; Siewiorek, Daniel P. (2011). "The BookComputer Structures: Thoughts After 40 Years". Retrieved 2012-07-18.
- Siewiorek, Daniel P.; Bell, C. Gordon; Newell, Allen (1981). Computer Structures: Readings and Examples (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill College. ISBN 0-07-057302-6.
- "TCM Report Winter 1984-1985". Retrieved 2012-07-18.
- "TCM Report Summer 1985". Retrieved 2012-07-18.
- "TCM Report Summer-Fall 1987". Retrieved 2012-07-18.
- "Walk Through Press Kit". Retrieved 2012-07-18.